The Pickwick Papers
Part 2 out of 20
With the exception of little heaps of rags and bundles which had
been carelessly thrown into the corners of the room, these were
the only things in the apartment.
'I had had time to note these little particulars, and to mark the
heavy breathing and feverish startings of the sick man, before he
was aware of my presence. In the restless attempts to procure
some easy resting-place for his head, he tossed his hand out of the
bed, and it fell on mine. He started up, and stared eagerly in my face.
'"Mr. Hutley, John," said his wife; "Mr. Hutley, that you sent
for to-night, you know."
'"Ah!" said the invalid, passing his hand across his forehead;
"Hutley--Hutley--let me see." He seemed endeavouring to
collect his thoughts for a few seconds, and then grasping me
tightly by the wrist said, "Don't leave me--don't leave me, old
fellow. She'll murder me; I know she will."
'"Has he been long so?" said I, addressing his weeping wife.
'"Since yesterday night," she replied. "John, John, don't you
'"Don't let her come near me," said the man, with a shudder,
as she stooped over him. "Drive her away; I can't bear her near
me." He stared wildly at her, with a look of deadly apprehension,
and then whispered in my ear, "I beat her, Jem; I beat her
yesterday, and many times before. I have starved her and the boy
too; and now I am weak and helpless, Jem, she'll murder me for
it; I know she will. If you'd seen her cry, as I have, you'd know it
too. Keep her off." He relaxed his grasp, and sank back exhausted
on the pillow.
'I knew but too well what all this meant. If I could have
entertained any doubt of it, for an instant, one glance at the
woman's pale face and wasted form would have sufficiently
explained the real state of the case. "You had better stand aside,"
said I to the poor creature. "You can do him no good. Perhaps he
will be calmer, if he does not see you." She retired out of the
man's sight. He opened his eyes after a few seconds, and looked
'"Is she gone?" he eagerly inquired.
'"Yes--yes," said I; "she shall not hurt you."
'"I'll tell you what, Jem," said the man, in a low voice, "she
does hurt me. There's something in her eyes wakes such a dreadful
fear in my heart, that it drives me mad. All last night, her large,
staring eyes and pale face were close to mine; wherever I turned,
they turned; and whenever I started up from my sleep, she was at
the bedside looking at me." He drew me closer to him, as he said
in a deep alarmed whisper, "Jem, she must be an evil spirit--a
devil! Hush! I know she is. If she had been a woman she would
have died long ago. No woman could have borne what she has."
'I sickened at the thought of the long course of cruelty and
neglect which must have occurred to produce such an impression
on such a man. I could say nothing in reply; for who could offer
hope, or consolation, to the abject being before me?
'I sat there for upwards of two hours, during which time he
tossed about, murmuring exclamations of pain or impatience,
restlessly throwing his arms here and there, and turning
constantly from side to side. At length he fell into that state of partial
unconsciousness, in which the mind wanders uneasily from scene
to scene, and from place to place, without the control of reason,
but still without being able to divest itself of an indescribable
sense of present suffering. Finding from his incoherent wanderings
that this was the case, and knowing that in all probability the
fever would not grow immediately worse, I left him, promising
his miserable wife that I would repeat my visit next evening, and,
if necessary, sit up with the patient during the night.
'I kept my promise. The last four-and-twenty hours had
produced a frightful alteration. The eyes, though deeply sunk
and heavy, shone with a lustre frightful to behold. The lips were
parched, and cracked in many places; the hard, dry skin glowed
with a burning heat; and there was an almost unearthly air of
wild anxiety in the man's face, indicating even more strongly the
ravages of the disease. The fever was at its height.
'I took the seat I had occupied the night before, and there I sat
for hours, listening to sounds which must strike deep to the heart
of the most callous among human beings--the awful ravings of a
dying man. From what I had heard of the medical attendant's
opinion, I knew there was no hope for him: I was sitting by his
death-bed. I saw the wasted limbs--which a few hours before
had been distorted for the amusement of a boisterous gallery,
writhing under the tortures of a burning fever--I heard the
clown's shrill laugh, blending with the low murmurings of the
'It is a touching thing to hear the mind reverting to the
ordinary occupations and pursuits of health, when the body lies
before you weak and helpless; but when those occupations are of
a character the most strongly opposed to anything we associate
with grave and solemn ideas, the impression produced is
infinitely more powerful. The theatre and the public-house were the
chief themes of the wretched man's wanderings. It was evening,
he fancied; he had a part to play that night; it was late, and he
must leave home instantly. Why did they hold him, and prevent
his going?--he should lose the money--he must go. No! they
would not let him. He hid his face in his burning hands, and
feebly bemoaned his own weakness, and the cruelty of his
persecutors. A short pause, and he shouted out a few doggerel
rhymes--the last he had ever learned. He rose in bed, drew up
his withered limbs, and rolled about in uncouth positions; he was
acting--he was at the theatre. A minute's silence, and he murmured
the burden of some roaring song. He had reached the old
house at last--how hot the room was. He had been ill, very ill,
but he was well now, and happy. Fill up his glass. Who was that,
that dashed it from his lips? It was the same persecutor that had
followed him before. He fell back upon his pillow and moaned
aloud. A short period of oblivion, and he was wandering through
a tedious maze of low-arched rooms--so low, sometimes, that he
must creep upon his hands and knees to make his way along; it
was close and dark, and every way he turned, some obstacle
impeded his progress. There were insects, too, hideous crawling
things, with eyes that stared upon him, and filled the very air
around, glistening horribly amidst the thick darkness of the place.
The walls and ceiling were alive with reptiles--the vault expanded
to an enormous size--frightful figures flitted to and fro--and the
faces of men he knew, rendered hideous by gibing and mouthing,
peered out from among them; they were searing him with
heated irons, and binding his head with cords till the blood
started; and he struggled madly for life.
'At the close of one of these paroxysms, when I had with great
difficulty held him down in his bed, he sank into what appeared
to be a slumber. Overpowered with watching and exertion, I had
closed my eyes for a few minutes, when I felt a violent clutch on
my shoulder. I awoke instantly. He had raised himself up, so as to
seat himself in bed--a dreadful change had come over his face,
but consciousness had returned, for he evidently knew me. The
child, who had been long since disturbed by his ravings, rose
from its little bed, and ran towards its father, screaming with
fright--the mother hastily caught it in her arms, lest he should
injure it in the violence of his insanity; but, terrified by the
alteration of his features, stood transfixed by the bedside. He
grasped my shoulder convulsively, and, striking his breast with
the other hand, made a desperate attempt to articulate. It was
unavailing; he extended his arm towards them, and made another
violent effort. There was a rattling noise in the throat--a glare of
the eye--a short stifled groan--and he fell back--dead!'
It would afford us the highest gratification to be enabled to
record Mr. Pickwick's opinion of the foregoing anecdote. We
have little doubt that we should have been enabled to present it
to our readers, but for a most unfortunate occurrence.
Mr. Pickwick had replaced on the table the glass which, during
the last few sentences of the tale, he had retained in his hand;
and had just made up his mind to speak--indeed, we have the
authority of Mr. Snodgrass's note-book for stating, that he had
actually opened his mouth--when the waiter entered the room,
'Some gentlemen, Sir.'
It has been conjectured that Mr. Pickwick was on the point of
delivering some remarks which would have enlightened the
world, if not the Thames, when he was thus interrupted; for he
gazed sternly on the waiter's countenance, and then looked round
on the company generally, as if seeking for information relative
to the new-comers.
'Oh!' said Mr. Winkle, rising, 'some friends of mine--show
them in. Very pleasant fellows,' added Mr. Winkle, after the
waiter had retired--'officers of the 97th, whose acquaintance I
made rather oddly this morning. You will like them very much.'
Mr. Pickwick's equanimity was at once restored. The waiter
returned, and ushered three gentlemen into the room.
'Lieutenant Tappleton,' said Mr. Winkle, 'Lieutenant Tappleton,
Mr. Pickwick--Doctor Payne, Mr. Pickwick--Mr. Snodgrass
you have seen before, my friend Mr. Tupman, Doctor
Payne--Doctor Slammer, Mr. Pickwick--Mr. Tupman, Doctor
Here Mr. Winkle suddenly paused; for strong emotion was
visible on the countenance both of Mr. Tupman and the doctor.
'I have met THIS gentleman before,' said the Doctor, with
'Indeed!' said Mr. Winkle.
'And--and that person, too, if I am not mistaken,' said the
doctor, bestowing a scrutinising glance on the green-coated
stranger. 'I think I gave that person a very pressing invitation last
night, which he thought proper to decline.' Saying which the
doctor scowled magnanimously on the stranger, and whispered
his friend Lieutenant Tappleton.
'You don't say so,' said that gentleman, at the conclusion of
'I do, indeed,' replied Doctor Slammer.
'You are bound to kick him on the spot,' murmured the
owner of the camp-stool, with great importance.
'Do be quiet, Payne,' interposed the lieutenant. 'Will you
allow me to ask you, sir,' he said, addressing Mr. Pickwick, who
was considerably mystified by this very unpolite by-play--'will
you allow me to ask you, Sir, whether that person belongs to your party?'
'No, Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'he is a guest of ours.'
'He is a member of your club, or I am mistaken?' said the
'Certainly not,' responded Mr. Pickwick.
'And never wears your club-button?' said the lieutenant.
'No--never!' replied the astonished Mr. Pickwick.
Lieutenant Tappleton turned round to his friend Doctor
Slammer, with a scarcely perceptible shrug of the shoulder, as if
implying some doubt of the accuracy of his recollection. The little
doctor looked wrathful, but confounded; and Mr. Payne gazed
with a ferocious aspect on the beaming countenance of the
'Sir,' said the doctor, suddenly addressing Mr. Tupman, in a
tone which made that gentleman start as perceptibly as if a pin
had been cunningly inserted in the calf of his leg, 'you were at the
ball here last night!'
Mr. Tupman gasped a faint affirmative, looking very hard at
Mr. Pickwick all the while.
'That person was your companion,' said the doctor, pointing
to the still unmoved stranger.
Mr. Tupman admitted the fact.
'Now, sir,' said the doctor to the stranger, 'I ask you once
again, in the presence of these gentlemen, whether you choose to
give me your card, and to receive the treatment of a gentleman;
or whether you impose upon me the necessity of personally
chastising you on the spot?'
'Stay, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I really cannot allow this matter
to go any further without some explanation. Tupman, recount the
Mr. Tupman, thus solemnly adjured, stated the case in a few
words; touched slightly on the borrowing of the coat; expatiated
largely on its having been done 'after dinner'; wound up with a
little penitence on his own account; and left the stranger to clear
himself as best he could.
He was apparently about to proceed to do so, when Lieutenant
Tappleton, who had been eyeing him with great curiosity, said
with considerable scorn, 'Haven't I seen you at the theatre, Sir?'
'Certainly,' replied the unabashed stranger.
'He is a strolling actor!' said the lieutenant contemptuously,
turning to Doctor Slammer.--'He acts in the piece that the
officers of the 52nd get up at the Rochester Theatre to-morrow
night. You cannot proceed in this affair, Slammer--impossible!'
'Quite!' said the dignified Payne.
'Sorry to have placed you in this disagreeable situation,' said
Lieutenant Tappleton, addressing Mr. Pickwick; 'allow me to
suggest, that the best way of avoiding a recurrence of such scenes
in future will be to be more select in the choice of your companions.
Good-evening, Sir!' and the lieutenant bounced out of the room.
'And allow me to say, Sir,' said the irascible Doctor Payne,
'that if I had been Tappleton, or if I had been Slammer, I would
have pulled your nose, Sir, and the nose of every man in this
company. I would, sir--every man. Payne is my name, sir--
Doctor Payne of the 43rd. Good-evening, Sir.' Having concluded
this speech, and uttered the last three words in a loud key, he
stalked majestically after his friend, closely followed by Doctor
Slammer, who said nothing, but contented himself by withering
the company with a look.
Rising rage and extreme bewilderment had swelled the noble
breast of Mr. Pickwick, almost to the bursting of his waistcoat,
during the delivery of the above defiance. He stood transfixed to
the spot, gazing on vacancy. The closing of the door recalled him
to himself. He rushed forward with fury in his looks, and fire in
his eye. His hand was upon the lock of the door; in another
instant it would have been on the throat of Doctor Payne of the
43rd, had not Mr. Snodgrass seized his revered leader by the coat
tail, and dragged him backwards.
'Restrain him,' cried Mr. Snodgrass; 'Winkle, Tupman--he
must not peril his distinguished life in such a cause as this.'
'Let me go,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Hold him tight,' shouted Mr. Snodgrass; and by the united
efforts of the whole company, Mr. Pickwick was forced into an arm-chair.
'Leave him alone,' said the green-coated stranger; 'brandy-
and-water--jolly old gentleman--lots of pluck--swallow this--
ah!--capital stuff.' Having previously tested the virtues of a
bumper, which had been mixed by the dismal man, the stranger
applied the glass to Mr. Pickwick's mouth; and the remainder of
its contents rapidly disappeared.
There was a short pause; the brandy-and-water had done its
work; the amiable countenance of Mr. Pickwick was fast
recovering its customary expression.
'They are not worth your notice,' said the dismal man.
'You are right, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'they are not. I am
ashamed to have been betrayed into this warmth of feeling. Draw
your chair up to the table, Sir.'
The dismal man readily complied; a circle was again formed
round the table, and harmony once more prevailed. Some
lingering irritability appeared to find a resting-place in Mr.
Winkle's bosom, occasioned possibly by the temporary abstraction
of his coat--though it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that
so slight a circumstance can have excited even a passing feeling of
anger in a Pickwickian's breast. With this exception, their good-
humour was completely restored; and the evening concluded
with the conviviality with which it had begun.
A FIELD DAY AND BIVOUAC--MORE NEW FRIENDS--AN
INVITATION TO THE COUNTRY
Many authors entertain, not only a foolish, but a really dishonest
objection to acknowledge the sources whence they derive much
valuable information. We have no such feeling. We are merely
endeavouring to discharge, in an upright manner, the responsible
duties of our editorial functions; and whatever ambition we might
have felt under other circumstances to lay claim to the authorship
of these adventures, a regard for truth forbids us to do more
than claim the merit of their judicious arrangement and impartial
narration. The Pickwick papers are our New River Head; and we may
be compared to the New River Company. The labours of others have
raised for us an immense reservoir of important facts. We merely
lay them on, and communicate them, in a clear and gentle stream,
through the medium of these pages, to a world thirsting for
Acting in this spirit, and resolutely proceeding on our
determination to avow our obligations to the authorities we have
consulted, we frankly say, that to the note-book of Mr. Snodgrass
are we indebted for the particulars recorded in this and the
succeeding chapter--particulars which, now that we have disburdened
our consciences, we shall proceed to detail without further comment.
The whole population of Rochester and the adjoining towns
rose from their beds at an early hour of the following morning,
in a state of the utmost bustle and excitement. A grand
review was to take place upon the lines. The manoeuvres of half
a dozen regiments were to be inspected by the eagle eye of
the commander-in-chief; temporary fortifications had been
erected, the citadel was to be attacked and taken, and a mine was
to be sprung.
Mr. Pickwick was, as our readers may have gathered from the
slight extract we gave from his description of Chatham, an
enthusiastic admirer of the army. Nothing could have been more
delightful to him--nothing could have harmonised so well with
the peculiar feeling of each of his companions--as this sight.
Accordingly they were soon afoot, and walking in the direction
of the scene of action, towards which crowds of people were
already pouring from a variety of quarters.
The appearance of everything on the lines denoted that the
approaching ceremony was one of the utmost grandeur and
importance. There were sentries posted to keep the ground for
the troops, and servants on the batteries keeping places for the
ladies, and sergeants running to and fro, with vellum-covered
books under their arms, and Colonel Bulder, in full military
uniform, on horseback, galloping first to one place and then to
another, and backing his horse among the people, and prancing,
and curvetting, and shouting in a most alarming manner, and
making himself very hoarse in the voice, and very red in the face,
without any assignable cause or reason whatever. Officers were
running backwards and forwards, first communicating with
Colonel Bulder, and then ordering the sergeants, and then
running away altogether; and even the very privates themselves
looked from behind their glazed stocks with an air of mysterious
solemnity, which sufficiently bespoke the special nature of the occasion.
Mr. Pickwick and his three companions stationed themselves
in the front of the crowd, and patiently awaited the commencement
of the proceedings. The throng was increasing every
moment; and the efforts they were compelled to make, to retain
the position they had gained, sufficiently occupied their attention
during the two hours that ensued. At one time there was a sudden
pressure from behind, and then Mr. Pickwick was jerked forward
for several yards, with a degree of speed and elasticity highly
inconsistent with the general gravity of his demeanour; at
another moment there was a request to 'keep back' from the
front, and then the butt-end of a musket was either dropped
upon Mr. Pickwick's toe, to remind him of the demand, or
thrust into his chest, to insure its being complied with. Then some
facetious gentlemen on the left, after pressing sideways in a body,
and squeezing Mr. Snodgrass into the very last extreme of human
torture, would request to know 'vere he vos a shovin' to'; and
when Mr. Winkle had done expressing his excessive indignation
at witnessing this unprovoked assault, some person behind
would knock his hat over his eyes, and beg the favour of his
putting his head in his pocket. These, and other practical
witticisms, coupled with the unaccountable absence of Mr.
Tupman (who had suddenly disappeared, and was nowhere to be
found), rendered their situation upon the whole rather more
uncomfortable than pleasing or desirable.
At length that low roar of many voices ran through the crowd
which usually announces the arrival of whatever they have been
waiting for. All eyes were turned in the direction of the sally-port.
A few moments of eager expectation, and colours were seen
fluttering gaily in the air, arms glistened brightly in the sun,
column after column poured on to the plain. The troops halted
and formed; the word of command rang through the line; there
was a general clash of muskets as arms were presented; and the
commander-in-chief, attended by Colonel Bulder and numerous
officers, cantered to the front. The military bands struck up
altogether; the horses stood upon two legs each, cantered backwards,
and whisked their tails about in all directions; the dogs
barked, the mob screamed, the troops recovered, and nothing
was to be seen on either side, as far as the eye could reach, but a
long perspective of red coats and white trousers, fixed and motionless.
Mr. Pickwick had been so fully occupied in falling about, and
disentangling himself, miraculously, from between the legs of
horses, that he had not enjoyed sufficient leisure to observe the
scene before him, until it assumed the appearance we have just
described. When he was at last enabled to stand firmly on his legs,
his gratification and delight were unbounded.
'Can anything be finer or more delightful?' he inquired of
'Nothing,' replied that gentleman, who had had a short man
standing on each of his feet for the quarter of an hour
'It is indeed a noble and a brilliant sight,' said Mr. Snodgrass,
in whose bosom a blaze of poetry was rapidly bursting forth, 'to
see the gallant defenders of their country drawn up in brilliant
array before its peaceful citizens; their faces beaming--not with
warlike ferocity, but with civilised gentleness; their eyes flashing
--not with the rude fire of rapine or revenge, but with the soft
light of humanity and intelligence.'
Mr. Pickwick fully entered into the spirit of this eulogium, but
he could not exactly re-echo its terms; for the soft light of
intelligence burned rather feebly in the eyes of the warriors,
inasmuch as the command 'eyes front' had been given, and all
the spectator saw before him was several thousand pair of optics,
staring straight forward, wholly divested of any expression whatever.
'We are in a capital situation now,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking
round him. The crowd had gradually dispersed in their
immediate vicinity, and they were nearly alone.
'Capital!' echoed both Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle.
'What are they doing now?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, adjusting
'I--I--rather think,' said Mr. Winkle, changing colour--'I
rather think they're going to fire.'
'Nonsense,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily.
'I--I--really think they are,' urged Mr. Snodgrass, somewhat
'Impossible,' replied Mr. Pickwick. He had hardly uttered the
word, when the whole half-dozen regiments levelled their muskets
as if they had but one common object, and that object the
Pickwickians, and burst forth with the most awful and tremendous
discharge that ever shook the earth to its centres, or an
elderly gentleman off his.
It was in this trying situation, exposed to a galling fire of blank
cartridges, and harassed by the operations of the military, a fresh
body of whom had begun to fall in on the opposite side, that
Mr. Pickwick displayed that perfect coolness and self-possession,
which are the indispensable accompaniments of a great mind. He
seized Mr. Winkle by the arm, and placing himself between that
gentleman and Mr. Snodgrass, earnestly besought them to
remember that beyond the possibility of being rendered deaf by
the noise, there was no immediate danger to be apprehended
from the firing.
'But--but--suppose some of the men should happen to have
ball cartridges by mistake,' remonstrated Mr. Winkle, pallid at
the supposition he was himself conjuring up. 'I heard something
whistle through the air now--so sharp; close to my ear.'
'We had better throw ourselves on our faces, hadn't we?' said
'No, no--it's over now,' said Mr. Pickwick. His lip might
quiver, and his cheek might blanch, but no expression of fear or
concern escaped the lips of that immortal man.
Mr. Pickwick was right--the firing ceased; but he had scarcely
time to congratulate himself on the accuracy of his opinion, when
a quick movement was visible in the line; the hoarse shout of the
word of command ran along it, and before either of the party
could form a guess at the meaning of this new manoeuvre, the
whole of the half-dozen regiments, with fixed bayonets, charged
at double-quick time down upon the very spot on which Mr.
Pickwick and his friends were stationed.
Man is but mortal; and there is a point beyond which human
courage cannot extend. Mr. Pickwick gazed through his spectacles
for an instant on the advancing mass, and then fairly turned his
back and--we will not say fled; firstly, because it is an ignoble
term, and, secondly, because Mr. Pickwick's figure was by no
means adapted for that mode of retreat--he trotted away, at as
quick a rate as his legs would convey him; so quickly, indeed,
that he did not perceive the awkwardness of his situation, to the
full extent, until too late.
The opposite troops, whose falling-in had perplexed Mr.
Pickwick a few seconds before, were drawn up to repel the mimic
attack of the sham besiegers of the citadel; and the consequence
was that Mr. Pickwick and his two companions found themselves
suddenly inclosed between two lines of great length, the one
advancing at a rapid pace, and the other firmly waiting the
collision in hostile array.
'Hoi!' shouted the officers of the advancing line.
'Get out of the way!' cried the officers of the stationary one.
'Where are we to go to?' screamed the agitated Pickwickians.
'Hoi--hoi--hoi!' was the only reply. There was a moment of
intense bewilderment, a heavy tramp of footsteps, a violent
concussion, a smothered laugh; the half-dozen regiments were
half a thousand yards off, and the soles of Mr. Pickwick's boots
were elevated in air.
Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed a
compulsory somerset with remarkable agility, when the first object
that met the eyes of the latter as he sat on the ground, staunching
with a yellow silk handkerchief the stream of life which issued
from his nose, was his venerated leader at some distance off,
running after his own hat, which was gambolling playfully away
There are very few moments in a man's existence when he
experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little
charitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.
A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, are
requisite in catching a hat. A man must not be precipitate, or he
runs over it; he must not rush into the opposite extreme, or he
loses it altogether. The best way is to keep gently up with the
object of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunity
well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize it
by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head; smiling pleasantly
all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke as anybody else.
There was a fine gentle wind, and Mr. Pickwick's hat rolled
sportively before it. The wind puffed, and Mr. Pickwick puffed,
and the hat rolled over and over as merrily as a lively porpoise
in a strong tide: and on it might have rolled, far beyond
Mr. Pickwick's reach, had not its course been providentially
stopped, just as that gentleman was on the point of resigning it
to its fate.
Mr. Pickwick, we say, was completely exhausted, and about to
give up the chase, when the hat was blown with some violence
against the wheel of a carriage, which was drawn up in a line with
half a dozen other vehicles on the spot to which his steps had been
directed. Mr. Pickwick, perceiving his advantage, darted briskly
forward, secured his property, planted it on his head, and paused
to take breath. He had not been stationary half a minute, when
he heard his own name eagerly pronounced by a voice, which he
at once recognised as Mr. Tupman's, and, looking upwards, he
beheld a sight which filled him with surprise and pleasure.
in an open barouche, the horses of which had been taken out,
the better to accommodate it to the crowded place, stood a stout
old gentleman, in a blue coat and bright buttons, corduroy
breeches and top-boots, two young ladies in scarfs and feathers, a
young gentleman apparently enamoured of one of the young
ladies in scarfs and feathers, a lady of doubtful age, probably the
aunt of the aforesaid, and Mr. Tupman, as easy and unconcerned
as if he had belonged to the family from the first moments of his
infancy. Fastened up behind the barouche was a hamper of
spacious dimensions--one of those hampers which always
awakens in a contemplative mind associations connected with
cold fowls, tongues, and bottles of wine--and on the box sat a
fat and red-faced boy, in a state of somnolency, whom no
speculative observer could have regarded for an instant without
setting down as the official dispenser of the contents of the
before-mentioned hamper, when the proper time for their
consumption should arrive.
Mr. Pickwick had bestowed a hasty glance on these interesting
objects, when he was again greeted by his faithful disciple.
'Pickwick--Pickwick,' said Mr. Tupman; 'come up here. Make haste.'
'Come along, Sir. Pray, come up,' said the stout gentleman.
'Joe!--damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again.--Joe, let down
the steps.' The fat boy rolled slowly off the box, let down the
steps, and held the carriage door invitingly open. Mr. Snodgrass
and Mr. Winkle came up at the moment.
'Room for you all, gentlemen,' said the stout man. 'Two inside,
and one out. Joe, make room for one of these gentlemen on the
box. Now, Sir, come along;' and the stout gentleman extended
his arm, and pulled first Mr. Pickwick, and then Mr. Snodgrass,
into the barouche by main force. Mr. Winkle mounted to the
box, the fat boy waddled to the same perch, and fell fast asleep
'Well, gentlemen,' said the stout man, 'very glad to see you.
Know you very well, gentlemen, though you mayn't remember
me. I spent some ev'nin's at your club last winter--picked up my
friend Mr. Tupman here this morning, and very glad I was to see
him. Well, Sir, and how are you? You do look uncommon well,
to be sure.'
Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment, and cordially
shook hands with the stout gentleman in the top-boots.
'Well, and how are you, sir?' said the stout gentleman,
addressing Mr. Snodgrass with paternal anxiety. 'Charming, eh?
Well, that's right--that's right. And how are you, sir (to Mr.
Winkle)? Well, I am glad to hear you say you are well; very glad
I am, to be sure. My daughters, gentlemen--my gals these are;
and that's my sister, Miss Rachael Wardle. She's a Miss, she is;
and yet she ain't a Miss--eh, Sir, eh?' And the stout gentleman
playfully inserted his elbow between the ribs of Mr. Pickwick, and
laughed very heartily.
'Lor, brother!' said Miss Wardle, with a deprecating smile.
'True, true,' said the stout gentleman; 'no one can deny it.
Gentlemen, I beg your pardon; this is my friend Mr. Trundle.
And now you all know each other, let's be comfortable and
happy, and see what's going forward; that's what I say.' So the
stout gentleman put on his spectacles, and Mr. Pickwick pulled
out his glass, and everybody stood up in the carriage, and looked
over somebody else's shoulder at the evolutions of the military.
Astounding evolutions they were, one rank firing over the
heads of another rank, and then running away; and then the
other rank firing over the heads of another rank, and running
away in their turn; and then forming squares, with officers in the
centre; and then descending the trench on one side with scaling-
ladders, and ascending it on the other again by the same means;
and knocking down barricades of baskets, and behaving in the
most gallant manner possible. Then there was such a ramming
down of the contents of enormous guns on the battery, with
instruments like magnified mops; such a preparation before they
were let off, and such an awful noise when they did go, that the
air resounded with the screams of ladies. The young Misses
Wardle were so frightened, that Mr. Trundle was actually obliged
to hold one of them up in the carriage, while Mr. Snodgrass
supported the other; and Mr. Wardle's sister suffered under such
a dreadful state of nervous alarm, that Mr. Tupman found it
indispensably necessary to put his arm round her waist, to keep
her up at all. Everybody was excited, except the fat boy, and he
slept as soundly as if the roaring of cannon were his ordinary lullaby.
'Joe, Joe!' said the stout gentleman, when the citadel was
taken, and the besiegers and besieged sat down to dinner. 'Damn
that boy, he's gone to sleep again. Be good enough to pinch him,
sir--in the leg, if you please; nothing else wakes him--thank you.
Undo the hamper, Joe.'
The fat boy, who had been effectually roused by the
compression of a portion of his leg between the finger and thumb of
Mr. Winkle, rolled off the box once again, and proceeded to
unpack the hamper with more expedition than could have been
expected from his previous inactivity.
'Now we must sit close,' said the stout gentleman. After a
great many jokes about squeezing the ladies' sleeves, and a vast
quantity of blushing at sundry jocose proposals, that the ladies
should sit in the gentlemen's laps, the whole party were stowed
down in the barouche; and the stout gentleman proceeded to
hand the things from the fat boy (who had mounted up behind
for the purpose) into the carriage.
'Now, Joe, knives and forks.' The knives and forks were
handed in, and the ladies and gentlemen inside, and Mr. Winkle
on the box, were each furnished with those useful instruments.
'Plates, Joe, plates.' A similar process employed in the
distribution of the crockery.
'Now, Joe, the fowls. Damn that boy; he's gone to sleep again.
Joe! Joe!' (Sundry taps on the head with a stick, and the fat boy,
with some difficulty, roused from his lethargy.) 'Come, hand in
There was something in the sound of the last word which
roused the unctuous boy. He jumped up, and the leaden eyes
which twinkled behind his mountainous cheeks leered horribly
upon the food as he unpacked it from the basket.
'Now make haste,' said Mr. Wardle; for the fat boy was
hanging fondly over a capon, which he seemed wholly unable to
part with. The boy sighed deeply, and, bestowing an ardent gaze
upon its plumpness, unwillingly consigned it to his master.
'That's right--look sharp. Now the tongue--now the pigeon
pie. Take care of that veal and ham--mind the lobsters--take the
salad out of the cloth--give me the dressing.' Such were the
hurried orders which issued from the lips of Mr. Wardle, as he
handed in the different articles described, and placed dishes in
everybody's hands, and on everybody's knees, in endless number.
'Now ain't this capital?' inquired that jolly personage, when
the work of destruction had commenced.
'Capital!' said Mr. Winkle, who was carving a fowl on the box.
'Glass of wine?'
'With the greatest pleasure.'
'You'd better have a bottle to yourself up there, hadn't you?'
'You're very good.'
'Yes, Sir.' (He wasn't asleep this time, having just succeeded in
abstracting a veal patty.)
'Bottle of wine to the gentleman on the box. Glad to see you, Sir.'
'Thank'ee.' Mr. Winkle emptied his glass, and placed the bottle
on the coach-box, by his side.
'Will you permit me to have the pleasure, Sir?' said Mr. Trundle
to Mr. Winkle.
'With great pleasure,' replied Mr. Winkle to Mr. Trundle,
and then the two gentlemen took wine, after which they took a
glass of wine round, ladies and all.
'How dear Emily is flirting with the strange gentleman,'
whispered the spinster aunt, with true spinster-aunt-like envy, to
her brother, Mr. Wardle.
'Oh! I don't know,' said the jolly old gentleman; 'all very
natural, I dare say--nothing unusual. Mr. Pickwick, some wine,
Sir?' Mr. Pickwick, who had been deeply investigating the
interior of the pigeon-pie, readily assented.
'Emily, my dear,' said the spinster aunt, with a patronising air,
'don't talk so loud, love.'
'Aunt and the little old gentleman want to have it all to
themselves, I think,' whispered Miss Isabella Wardle to her sister
Emily. The young ladies laughed very heartily, and the old one
tried to look amiable, but couldn't manage it.
'Young girls have such spirits,' said Miss Wardle to Mr. Tupman,
with an air of gentle commiseration, as if animal spirits
were contraband, and their possession without a permit a high
crime and misdemeanour.
'Oh, they have,' replied Mr. Tupman, not exactly making the
sort of reply that was expected from him. 'It's quite delightful.'
'Hem!' said Miss Wardle, rather dubiously.
'Will you permit me?' said Mr. Tupman, in his blandest
manner, touching the enchanting Rachael's wrist with one hand,
and gently elevating the bottle with the other. 'Will you permit me?'
'Oh, sir!' Mr. Tupman looked most impressive; and Rachael
expressed her fear that more guns were going off, in which case,
of course, she should have required support again.
'Do you think my dear nieces pretty?' whispered their
affectionate aunt to Mr. Tupman.
'I should, if their aunt wasn't here,' replied the ready
Pickwickian, with a passionate glance.
'Oh, you naughty man--but really, if their complexions were a
little better, don't you think they would be nice-looking girls--
'Yes; I think they would,' said Mr. Tupman, with an air
'Oh, you quiz--I know what you were going to say.'
'What?' inquired Mr. Tupman, who had not precisely made
up his mind to say anything at all.
'You were going to say that Isabel stoops--I know you were--
you men are such observers. Well, so she does; it can't be denied;
and, certainly, if there is one thing more than another that makes
a girl look ugly it is stooping. I often tell her that when she gets a
little older she'll be quite frightful. Well, you are a quiz!'
Mr. Tupman had no objection to earning the reputation at so
cheap a rate: so he looked very knowing, and smiled mysteriously.
'What a sarcastic smile,' said the admiring Rachael; 'I declare
I'm quite afraid of you.'
'Afraid of me!'
'Oh, you can't disguise anything from me--I know what that
smile means very well.'
'What?' said Mr. Tupman, who had not the slightest notion himself.
'You mean,' said the amiable aunt, sinking her voice still
lower--'you mean, that you don't think Isabella's stooping is as
bad as Emily's boldness. Well, she is bold! You cannot think how
wretched it makes me sometimes--I'm sure I cry about it for
hours together--my dear brother is SO good, and so unsuspicious,
that he never sees it; if he did, I'm quite certain it would break
his heart. I wish I could think it was only manner--I hope it may
be--' (Here the affectionate relative heaved a deep sigh, and
shook her head despondingly).
'I'm sure aunt's talking about us,' whispered Miss Emily
Wardle to her sister--'I'm quite certain of it--she looks so malicious.'
'Is she?' replied Isabella.--'Hem! aunt, dear!'
'Yes, my dear love!'
'I'm SO afraid you'll catch cold, aunt--have a silk handkerchief
to tie round your dear old head--you really should take care of
yourself--consider your age!'
However well deserved this piece of retaliation might have
been, it was as vindictive a one as could well have been resorted
to. There is no guessing in what form of reply the aunt's indignation
would have vented itself, had not Mr. Wardle unconsciously changed
the subject, by calling emphatically for Joe.
'Damn that boy,' said the old gentleman, 'he's gone to sleep again.'
'Very extraordinary boy, that,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'does he
always sleep in this way?'
'Sleep!' said the old gentleman, 'he's always asleep. Goes on
errands fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table.'
'How very odd!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah! odd indeed,' returned the old gentleman; 'I'm proud of
that boy--wouldn't part with him on any account--he's a
natural curiosity! Here, Joe--Joe--take these things away, and
open another bottle--d'ye hear?'
The fat boy rose, opened his eyes, swallowed the huge piece of
pie he had been in the act of masticating when he last fell asleep,
and slowly obeyed his master's orders--gloating languidly over
the remains of the feast, as he removed the plates, and deposited
them in the hamper. The fresh bottle was produced, and speedily
emptied: the hamper was made fast in its old place--the fat
boy once more mounted the box--the spectacles and pocket-
glass were again adjusted--and the evolutions of the military
recommenced. There was a great fizzing and banging of
guns, and starting of ladies--and then a Mine was sprung, to
the gratification of everybody--and when the mine had gone
off, the military and the company followed its example, and
went off too.
'Now, mind,' said the old gentleman, as he shook hands with
Mr. Pickwick at the conclusion of a conversation which had been
carried on at intervals, during the conclusion of the proceedings,
"we shall see you all to-morrow.'
'Most certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'You have got the address?'
'Manor Farm, Dingley Dell,' said Mr. Pickwick, consulting his
'That's it,' said the old gentleman. 'I don't let you off, mind,
under a week; and undertake that you shall see everything worth
seeing. If you've come down for a country life, come to me, and
I'll give you plenty of it. Joe--damn that boy, he's gone to sleep
again--Joe, help Tom put in the horses.'
The horses were put in--the driver mounted--the fat
boy clambered up by his side--farewells were exchanged--
and the carriage rattled off. As the Pickwickians turned round
to take a last glimpse of it, the setting sun cast a rich glow on
the faces of their entertainers, and fell upon the form of the
fat boy. His head was sunk upon his bosom; and he slumbered again.
A SHORT ONE--SHOWING, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, HOW
Mr. PICKWICK UNDERTOOK TO DRIVE, AND Mr. WINKLE
TO RIDE, AND HOW THEY BOTH DID IT
Bright and pleasant was the sky, balmy the air, and beautiful
the appearance of every object around, as Mr. Pickwick leaned
over the balustrades of Rochester Bridge, contemplating nature,
and waiting for breakfast. The scene was indeed one which might
well have charmed a far less reflective mind, than that to which
it was presented.
On the left of the spectator lay the ruined wall, broken in many
places, and in some, overhanging the narrow beach below in rude
and heavy masses. Huge knots of seaweed hung upon the jagged
and pointed stones, trembling in every breath of wind; and the
green ivy clung mournfully round the dark and ruined battlements.
Behind it rose the ancient castle, its towers roofless, and
its massive walls crumbling away, but telling us proudly of its old
might and strength, as when, seven hundred years ago, it rang
with the clash of arms, or resounded with the noise of feasting
and revelry. On either side, the banks of the Medway, covered
with cornfields and pastures, with here and there a windmill, or a
distant church, stretched away as far as the eye could see,
presenting a rich and varied landscape, rendered more beautiful
by the changing shadows which passed swiftly across it as the
thin and half-formed clouds skimmed away in the light of the
morning sun. The river, reflecting the clear blue of the sky,
glistened and sparkled as it flowed noiselessly on; and the oars of
the fishermen dipped into the water with a clear and liquid sound,
as their heavy but picturesque boats glided slowly down the stream.
Mr. Pickwick was roused from the agreeable reverie into which
he had been led by the objects before him, by a deep sigh, and a
touch on his shoulder. He turned round: and the dismal man was
at his side.
'Contemplating the scene?' inquired the dismal man.
'I was,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'And congratulating yourself on being up so soon?'
Mr. Pickwick nodded assent.
'Ah! people need to rise early, to see the sun in all his splendour,
for his brightness seldom lasts the day through. The
morning of day and the morning of life are but too much alike.'
'You speak truly, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'How common the saying,' continued the dismal man, '"The
morning's too fine to last." How well might it be applied to our
everyday existence. God! what would I forfeit to have the days of
my childhood restored, or to be able to forget them for ever!'
'You have seen much trouble, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick compassionately.
'I have,' said the dismal man hurriedly; 'I have. More than
those who see me now would believe possible.' He paused for an
instant, and then said abruptly--
'Did it ever strike you, on such a morning as this, that drowning
would be happiness and peace?'
'God bless me, no!' replied Mr. Pickwick, edging a little from
the balustrade, as the possibility of the dismal man's tipping him
over, by way of experiment, occurred to him rather forcibly.
'I have thought so, often,' said the dismal man, without
noticing the action. 'The calm, cool water seems to me to murmur
an invitation to repose and rest. A bound, a splash, a brief
struggle; there is an eddy for an instant, it gradually subsides into
a gentle ripple; the waters have closed above your head, and the
world has closed upon your miseries and misfortunes for ever.'
The sunken eye of the dismal man flashed brightly as he spoke,
but the momentary excitement quickly subsided; and he turned
calmly away, as he said--
'There--enough of that. I wish to see you on another subject.
You invited me to read that paper, the night before last, and
listened attentively while I did so.'
'I did,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'and I certainly thought--'
'I asked for no opinion,' said the dismal man, interrupting him,
'and I want none. You are travelling for amusement and instruction.
Suppose I forward you a curious manuscript--observe, not
curious because wild or improbable, but curious as a leaf from
the romance of real life--would you communicate it to the club,
of which you have spoken so frequently?'
'Certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'if you wished it; and it
would be entered on their transactions.'
'You shall have it,' replied the dismal man. 'Your address;'
and, Mr. Pickwick having communicated their probable route, the
dismal man carefully noted it down in a greasy pocket-book,
and, resisting Mr. Pickwick's pressing invitation to breakfast,
left that gentleman at his inn, and walked slowly away.
Mr. Pickwick found that his three companions had risen, and
were waiting his arrival to commence breakfast, which was ready
laid in tempting display. They sat down to the meal; and broiled
ham, eggs, tea, coffee and sundries, began to disappear with a
rapidity which at once bore testimony to the excellence of the
fare, and the appetites of its consumers.
'Now, about Manor Farm,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'How shall we go ?'
'We had better consult the waiter, perhaps,' said Mr. Tupman;
and the waiter was summoned accordingly.
'Dingley Dell, gentlemen--fifteen miles, gentlemen--cross
'Post-chaise won't hold more than two,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'True, sir--beg your pardon, sir.--Very nice four-wheel chaise,
sir--seat for two behind--one in front for the gentleman that
drives--oh! beg your pardon, sir--that'll only hold three.'
'What's to be done?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Perhaps one of the gentlemen would like to ride, sir?' suggested
the waiter, looking towards Mr. Winkle; 'very good
saddle-horses, sir--any of Mr. Wardle's men coming to Rochester,
bring 'em back, Sir.'
'The very thing,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Winkle, will you go on
Now Mr. Winkle did entertain considerable misgivings in the
very lowest recesses of his own heart, relative to his equestrian
skill; but, as he would not have them even suspected, on any
account, he at once replied with great hardihood, 'Certainly. I
should enjoy it of all things.'
Mr. Winkle had rushed upon his fate; there was no resource.
'Let them be at the door by eleven,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Very well, sir,' replied the waiter.
The waiter retired; the breakfast concluded; and the travellers
ascended to their respective bedrooms, to prepare a change of
clothing, to take with them on their approaching expedition.
Mr. Pickwick had made his preliminary arrangements, and
was looking over the coffee-room blinds at the passengers
in the street, when the waiter entered, and announced that
the chaise was ready--an announcement which the vehicle itself
confirmed, by forthwith appearing before the coffee-room blinds
It was a curious little green box on four wheels, with a low
place like a wine-bin for two behind, and an elevated perch for
one in front, drawn by an immense brown horse, displaying
great symmetry of bone. An hostler stood near, holding by the
bridle another immense horse--apparently a near relative of the
animal in the chaise--ready saddled for Mr. Winkle.
'Bless my soul!' said Mr. Pickwick, as they stood upon the
pavement while the coats were being put in. 'Bless my soul! who's
to drive? I never thought of that.'
'Oh! you, of course,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Of course,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'I!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Not the slightest fear, Sir,' interposed the hostler. 'Warrant
him quiet, Sir; a hinfant in arms might drive him.'
'He don't shy, does he?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Shy, sir?-he wouldn't shy if he was to meet a vagin-load of
monkeys with their tails burned off.'
The last recommendation was indisputable. Mr. Tupman and
Mr. Snodgrass got into the bin; Mr. Pickwick ascended to his
perch, and deposited his feet on a floor-clothed shelf, erected
beneath it for that purpose.
'Now, shiny Villiam,' said the hostler to the deputy hostler,
'give the gen'lm'n the ribbons.' 'Shiny Villiam'--so called,
probably, from his sleek hair and oily countenance--placed the
reins in Mr. Pickwick's left hand; and the upper hostler thrust a
whip into his right.
'Wo-o!' cried Mr. Pickwick, as the tall quadruped evinced a
decided inclination to back into the coffee-room window.
'Wo-o!' echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass, from the bin.
'Only his playfulness, gen'lm'n,' said the head hostler
encouragingly; 'jist kitch hold on him, Villiam.' The deputy
restrained the animal's impetuosity, and the principal ran to
assist Mr. Winkle in mounting.
'T'other side, sir, if you please.'
'Blowed if the gen'lm'n worn't a-gettin' up on the wrong side,'
whispered a grinning post-boy to the inexpressibly gratified waiter.
Mr. Winkle, thus instructed, climbed into his saddle, with
about as much difficulty as he would have experienced in getting
up the side of a first-rate man-of-war.
'All right?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, with an inward presentiment
that it was all wrong.
'All right,' replied Mr. Winkle faintly.
'Let 'em go,' cried the hostler.--'Hold him in, sir;' and away
went the chaise, and the saddle-horse, with Mr. Pickwick on the
box of the one, and Mr. Winkle on the back of the other, to the
delight and gratification of the whole inn-yard.
'What makes him go sideways?' said Mr. Snodgrass in the bin,
to Mr. Winkle in the saddle.
'I can't imagine,' replied Mr. Winkle. His horse was drifting
up the street in the most mysterious manner--side first, with
his head towards one side of the way, and his tail towards the other.
Mr. Pickwick had no leisure to observe either this or any other
particular, the whole of his faculties being concentrated in the
management of the animal attached to the chaise, who displayed
various peculiarities, highly interesting to a bystander, but by no
means equally amusing to any one seated behind him. Besides
constantly jerking his head up, in a very unpleasant and uncomfortable
manner, and tugging at the reins to an extent which
rendered it a matter of great difficulty for Mr. Pickwick to hold
them, he had a singular propensity for darting suddenly every
now and then to the side of the road, then stopping short, and
then rushing forward for some minutes, at a speed which it was
wholly impossible to control.
'What CAN he mean by this?' said Mr. Snodgrass, when the
horse had executed this manoeuvre for the twentieth time.
'I don't know,' replied Mr. Tupman; 'it looks very like shying,
don't it?' Mr. Snodgrass was about to reply, when he was interrupted
by a shout from Mr. Pickwick.
'Woo!' said that gentleman; 'I have dropped my whip.'
'Winkle,' said Mr. Snodgrass, as the equestrian came trotting
up on the tall horse, with his hat over his ears, and shaking all
over, as if he would shake to pieces, with the violence of the
exercise, 'pick up the whip, there's a good fellow.' Mr. Winkle
pulled at the bridle of the tall horse till he was black in the face;
and having at length succeeded in stopping him, dismounted,
handed the whip to Mr. Pickwick, and grasping the reins,
prepared to remount.
Now whether the tall horse, in the natural playfulness of his
disposition, was desirous of having a little innocent recreation
with Mr. Winkle, or whether it occurred to him that he could
perform the journey as much to his own satisfaction without a
rider as with one, are points upon which, of course, we can
arrive at no definite and distinct conclusion. By whatever motives
the animal was actuated, certain it is that Mr. Winkle had no
sooner touched the reins, than he slipped them over his head, and
darted backwards to their full length.
'Poor fellow,' said Mr. Winkle soothingly--'poor fellow--
good old horse.' The 'poor fellow' was proof against flattery; the
more Mr. Winkle tried to get nearer him, the more he sidled
away; and, notwithstanding all kinds of coaxing and wheedling,
there were Mr. Winkle and the horse going round and round each
other for ten minutes, at the end of which time each was at
precisely the same distance from the other as when they first
commenced--an unsatisfactory sort of thing under any circumstances,
but particularly so in a lonely road, where no assistance
can be procured.
'What am I to do?' shouted Mr. Winkle, after the dodging had
been prolonged for a considerable time. 'What am I to do? I
can't get on him.'
'You had better lead him till we come to a turnpike,' replied
Mr. Pickwick from the chaise.
'But he won't come!' roared Mr. Winkle. 'Do come and hold him.'
Mr. Pickwick was the very personation of kindness and
humanity: he threw the reins on the horse's back, and having
descended from his seat, carefully drew the chaise into the hedge,
lest anything should come along the road, and stepped back to
the assistance of his distressed companion, leaving Mr. Tupman
and Mr. Snodgrass in the vehicle.
The horse no sooner beheld Mr. Pickwick advancing towards
him with the chaise whip in his hand, than he exchanged the
rotary motion in which he had previously indulged, for a retrograde
movement of so very determined a character, that it at once
drew Mr. Winkle, who was still at the end of the bridle, at a
rather quicker rate than fast walking, in the direction from which
they had just come. Mr. Pickwick ran to his assistance, but the
faster Mr. Pickwick ran forward, the faster the horse ran backward.
There was a great scraping of feet, and kicking up of
the dust; and at last Mr. Winkle, his arms being nearly pulled
out of their sockets, fairly let go his hold. The horse paused,
stared, shook his head, turned round, and quietly trotted
home to Rochester, leaving Mr. Winkle and Mr. Pickwick
gazing on each other with countenances of blank dismay. A
rattling noise at a little distance attracted their attention. They
'Bless my soul!' exclaimed the agonised Mr. Pickwick; 'there's
the other horse running away!'
It was but too true. The animal was startled by the noise, and
the reins were on his back. The results may be guessed. He tore
off with the four-wheeled chaise behind him, and Mr. Tupman
and Mr. Snodgrass in the four-wheeled chaise. The heat was a
short one. Mr. Tupman threw himself into the hedge, Mr. Snodgrass
followed his example, the horse dashed the four--wheeled
chaise against a wooden bridge, separated the wheels from the
body, and the bin from the perch; and finally stood stock still to
gaze upon the ruin he had made.
The first care of the two unspilt friends was to extricate their
unfortunate companions from their bed of quickset--a process
which gave them the unspeakable satisfaction of discovering that
they had sustained no injury, beyond sundry rents in their
garments, and various lacerations from the brambles. The next
thing to be done was to unharness the horse. This complicated
process having been effected, the party walked slowly forward,
leading the horse among them, and abandoning the chaise to its fate.
An hour's walk brought the travellers to a little road-side
public-house, with two elm-trees, a horse trough, and a signpost,
in front; one or two deformed hay-ricks behind, a kitchen garden
at the side, and rotten sheds and mouldering outhouses jumbled
in strange confusion all about it. A red-headed man was working
in the garden; and to him Mr. Pickwick called lustily, 'Hollo there!'
The red-headed man raised his body, shaded his eyes with his hand,
and stared, long and coolly, at Mr. Pickwick and his companions.
'Hollo there!' repeated Mr. Pickwick.
'Hollo!' was the red-headed man's reply.
'How far is it to Dingley Dell?'
'Better er seven mile.'
'Is it a good road?'
'No, 'tain't.' Having uttered this brief reply, and apparently
satisfied himself with another scrutiny, the red-headed man
resumed his work.
'We want to put this horse up here,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I
suppose we can, can't we?'
'Want to put that ere horse up, do ee?' repeated the red-
headed man, leaning on his spade.
'Of course,' replied Mr. Pickwick, who had by this time
advanced, horse in hand, to the garden rails.
'Missus'--roared the man with the red head, emerging from
the garden, and looking very hard at the horse--'missus!'
A tall, bony woman--straight all the way down--in a coarse,
blue pelisse, with the waist an inch or two below her arm-pits,
responded to the call.
'Can we put this horse up here, my good woman?' said Mr.
Tupman, advancing, and speaking in his most seductive tones.
The woman looked very hard at the whole party; and the red-
headed man whispered something in her ear.
'No,' replied the woman, after a little consideration, 'I'm
afeerd on it.'
'Afraid!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, 'what's the woman afraid of ?'
'It got us in trouble last time,' said the woman, turning into the
house; 'I woan't have nothin' to say to 'un.'
'Most extraordinary thing I have ever met with in my life,' said
the astonished Mr. Pickwick.
'I--I--really believe,' whispered Mr. Winkle, as his friends
gathered round him, 'that they think we have come by this horse
in some dishonest manner.'
'What!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, in a storm of indignation.
Mr. Winkle modestly repeated his suggestion.
'Hollo, you fellow,' said the angry Mr. Pickwick,'do you think
we stole the horse?'
'I'm sure ye did,' replied the red-headed man, with a grin which
agitated his countenance from one auricular organ to the other.
Saying which he turned into the house and banged the door after him.
'It's like a dream,' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, 'a hideous dream.
The idea of a man's walking about all day with a dreadful horse
that he can't get rid of!' The depressed Pickwickians turned
moodily away, with the tall quadruped, for which they all felt the
most unmitigated disgust, following slowly at their heels.
It was late in the afternoon when the four friends and their
four-footed companion turned into the lane leading to Manor
Farm; and even when they were so near their place of destination,
the pleasure they would otherwise have experienced was materially
damped as they reflected on the singularity of their appearance,
and the absurdity of their situation. Torn clothes, lacerated faces,
dusty shoes, exhausted looks, and, above all, the horse. Oh, how
Mr. Pickwick cursed that horse: he had eyed the noble animal
from time to time with looks expressive of hatred and revenge;
more than once he had calculated the probable amount of the
expense he would incur by cutting his throat; and now the
temptation to destroy him, or to cast him loose upon the world,
rushed upon his mind with tenfold force. He was roused from a
meditation on these dire imaginings by the sudden appearance of
two figures at a turn of the lane. It was Mr. Wardle, and his
faithful attendant, the fat boy.
'Why, where have you been ?' said the hospitable old gentleman;
'I've been waiting for you all day. Well, you DO look tired. What!
Scratches! Not hurt, I hope--eh? Well, I AM glad to hear that--
very. So you've been spilt, eh? Never mind. Common accident in
these parts. Joe--he's asleep again!--Joe, take that horse from
the gentlemen, and lead it into the stable.'
The fat boy sauntered heavily behind them with the animal;
and the old gentleman, condoling with his guests in homely
phrase on so much of the day's adventures as they thought proper
to communicate, led the way to the kitchen.
'We'll have you put to rights here,' said the old gentleman, 'and
then I'll introduce you to the people in the parlour. Emma, bring
out the cherry brandy; now, Jane, a needle and thread here;
towels and water, Mary. Come, girls, bustle about.'
Three or four buxom girls speedily dispersed in search of the
different articles in requisition, while a couple of large-headed,
circular-visaged males rose from their seats in the chimney-
corner (for although it was a May evening their attachment to the
wood fire appeared as cordial as if it were Christmas), and dived
into some obscure recesses, from which they speedily produced a
bottle of blacking, and some half-dozen brushes.
'Bustle!' said the old gentleman again, but the admonition was
quite unnecessary, for one of the girls poured out the cherry
brandy, and another brought in the towels, and one of the men
suddenly seizing Mr. Pickwick by the leg, at imminent hazard of
throwing him off his balance, brushed away at his boot till his
corns were red-hot; while the other shampooed Mr. Winkle with
a heavy clothes-brush, indulging, during the operation, in that
hissing sound which hostlers are wont to produce when engaged
in rubbing down a horse.
Mr. Snodgrass, having concluded his ablutions, took a survey
of the room, while standing with his back to the fire, sipping his
cherry brandy with heartfelt satisfaction. He describes it as a
large apartment, with a red brick floor and a capacious chimney;
the ceiling garnished with hams, sides of bacon, and ropes of
onions. The walls were decorated with several hunting-whips,
two or three bridles, a saddle, and an old rusty blunderbuss, with
an inscription below it, intimating that it was 'Loaded'--as it had
been, on the same authority, for half a century at least. An old
eight-day clock, of solemn and sedate demeanour, ticked gravely
in one corner; and a silver watch, of equal antiquity, dangled
from one of the many hooks which ornamented the dresser.
'Ready?' said the old gentleman inquiringly, when his guests
had been washed, mended, brushed, and brandied.
'Quite,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Come along, then;' and the party having traversed several
dark passages, and being joined by Mr. Tupman, who had
lingered behind to snatch a kiss from Emma, for which he had
been duly rewarded with sundry pushings and scratchings,
arrived at the parlour door.
'Welcome,' said their hospitable host, throwing it open and
stepping forward to announce them, 'welcome, gentlemen, to
AN OLD-FASHIONED CARD-PARTY--THE CLERGYMAN'S
VERSES--THE STORY OF THE CONVICT'S RETURN
Several guests who were assembled in the old parlour rose to
greet Mr. Pickwick and his friends upon their entrance; and during
the performance of the ceremony of introduction, with all due
formalities, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to observe the appearance,
and speculate upon the characters and pursuits, of the persons by
whom he was surrounded--a habit in which he, in common with many
other great men, delighted to indulge.
A very old lady, in a lofty cap and faded silk gown--no less a
personage than Mr. Wardle's mother--occupied the post of
honour on the right-hand corner of the chimney-piece; and
various certificates of her having been brought up in the way she
should go when young, and of her not having departed from it
when old, ornamented the walls, in the form of samplers of
ancient date, worsted landscapes of equal antiquity, and crimson
silk tea-kettle holders of a more modern period. The aunt, the two
young ladies, and Mr. Wardle, each vying with the other in
paying zealous and unremitting attentions to the old lady,
crowded round her easy-chair, one holding her ear-trumpet,
another an orange, and a third a smelling-bottle, while a fourth
was busily engaged in patting and punching the pillows which
were arranged for her support. On the opposite side sat a bald-
headed old gentleman, with a good-humoured, benevolent face--
the clergyman of Dingley Dell; and next him sat his wife, a stout,
blooming old lady, who looked as if she were well skilled, not
only in the art and mystery of manufacturing home-made
cordials greatly to other people's satisfaction, but of tasting them
occasionally very much to her own. A little hard-headed,
Ripstone pippin-faced man, was conversing with a fat old
gentleman in one corner; and two or three more old gentlemen,
and two or three more old ladies, sat bolt upright and motionless
on their chairs, staring very hard at Mr. Pickwick and his
'Mr. Pickwick, mother,' said Mr. Wardle, at the very top of
'Ah!' said the old lady, shaking her head; 'I can't hear you.'
'Mr. Pickwick, grandma!' screamed both the young ladies together.
'Ah!' exclaimed the old lady. 'Well, it don't much matter. He
don't care for an old 'ooman like me, I dare say.'
'I assure you, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, grasping the old
lady's hand, and speaking so loud that the exertion imparted a
crimson hue to his benevolent countenance--'I assure you,
ma'am, that nothing delights me more than to see a lady of your
time of life heading so fine a family, and looking so young and well.'
'Ah!' said the old lady, after a short pause: 'it's all very fine, I
dare say; but I can't hear him.'
'Grandma's rather put out now,' said Miss Isabella Wardle, in
a low tone; 'but she'll talk to you presently.'
Mr. Pickwick nodded his readiness to humour the infirmities
of age, and entered into a general conversation with the other
members of the circle.
'Delightful situation this,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Delightful!' echoed Messrs. Snodgrass, Tupman, and Winkle.
'Well, I think it is,' said Mr. Wardle.
'There ain't a better spot o' ground in all Kent, sir,' said the
hard-headed man with the pippin--face; 'there ain't indeed, sir--
I'm sure there ain't, Sir.' The hard-headed man looked triumphantly
round, as if he had been very much contradicted by somebody,
but had got the better of him at last.
'There ain't a better spot o' ground in all Kent,' said the
hard-headed man again, after a pause.
''Cept Mullins's Meadows,' observed the fat man solemnly.
'Mullins's Meadows!' ejaculated the other, with profound contempt.
'Ah, Mullins's Meadows,' repeated the fat man.
'Reg'lar good land that,' interposed another fat man.
'And so it is, sure-ly,' said a third fat man.
'Everybody knows that,' said the corpulent host.
The hard-headed man looked dubiously round, but finding
himself in a minority, assumed a compassionate air and said no more.
'What are they talking about?' inquired the old lady of one of
her granddaughters, in a very audible voice; for, like many deaf
people, she never seemed to calculate on the possibility of other
persons hearing what she said herself.
'About the land, grandma.'
'What about the land?--Nothing the matter, is there?'
'No, no. Mr. Miller was saying our land was better than
'How should he know anything about it?'inquired the old lady
indignantly. 'Miller's a conceited coxcomb, and you may tell him
I said so.' Saying which, the old lady, quite unconscious that she
had spoken above a whisper, drew herself up, and looked
carving-knives at the hard-headed delinquent.
'Come, come,' said the bustling host, with a natural anxiety to
change the conversation, 'what say you to a rubber, Mr. Pickwick?'
'I should like it of all things,' replied that gentleman; 'but pray
don't make up one on my account.'
'Oh, I assure you, mother's very fond of a rubber,' said Mr.
Wardle; 'ain't you, mother?'
The old lady, who was much less deaf on this subject than on
any other, replied in the affirmative.
'Joe, Joe!' said the gentleman; 'Joe--damn that--oh, here he
is; put out the card--tables.'
The lethargic youth contrived without any additional rousing
to set out two card-tables; the one for Pope Joan, and the other
for whist. The whist-players were Mr. Pickwick and the old lady,
Mr. Miller and the fat gentleman. The round game comprised the
rest of the company.
The rubber was conducted with all that gravity of deportment
and sedateness of demeanour which befit the pursuit entitled
'whist'--a solemn observance, to which, as it appears to us, the
title of 'game' has been very irreverently and ignominiously
applied. The round-game table, on the other hand, was so
boisterously merry as materially to interrupt the contemplations
of Mr. Miller, who, not being quite so much absorbed as he
ought to have been, contrived to commit various high crimes and
misdemeanours, which excited the wrath of the fat gentleman to
a very great extent, and called forth the good-humour of the old
lady in a proportionate degree.
'There!' said the criminal Miller triumphantly, as he took up
the odd trick at the conclusion of a hand; 'that could not have
been played better, I flatter myself; impossible to have made
'Miller ought to have trumped the diamond, oughtn't he, Sir?'
said the old lady.
Mr. Pickwick nodded assent.
'Ought I, though?' said the unfortunate, with a doubtful appeal
to his partner.
'You ought, Sir,' said the fat gentleman, in an awful voice.
'Very sorry,' said the crestfallen Miller.
'Much use that,' growled the fat gentleman.
'Two by honours--makes us eight,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Another hand. 'Can you one?' inquired the old lady.
'I can,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Double, single, and the rub.'
'Never was such luck,' said Mr. Miller.
'Never was such cards,' said the fat gentleman.
A solemn silence; Mr. Pickwick humorous, the old lady serious,
the fat gentleman captious, and Mr. Miller timorous.
'Another double,' said the old lady, triumphantly making a
memorandum of the circumstance, by placing one sixpence and a
battered halfpenny under the candlestick.
'A double, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Quite aware of the fact, Sir,' replied the fat gentleman sharply.
Another game, with a similar result, was followed by a revoke
from the unlucky Miller; on which the fat gentleman burst into a
state of high personal excitement which lasted until the
conclusion of the game, when he retired into a corner, and remained
perfectly mute for one hour and twenty-seven minutes; at the end
of which time he emerged from his retirement, and offered
Mr. Pickwick a pinch of snuff with the air of a man who had
made up his mind to a Christian forgiveness of injuries sustained.
The old lady's hearing decidedly improved and the unlucky
Miller felt as much out of his element as a dolphin in a sentry-box.
Meanwhile the round game proceeded right merrily. Isabella
Wardle and Mr. Trundle 'went partners,' and Emily Wardle and
Mr. Snodgrass did the same; and even Mr. Tupman and the
spinster aunt established a joint-stock company of fish and
flattery. Old Mr. Wardle was in the very height of his jollity; and
he was so funny in his management of the board, and the old
ladies were so sharp after their winnings, that the whole table was
in a perpetual roar of merriment and laughter. There was one old
lady who always had about half a dozen cards to pay for, at
which everybody laughed, regularly every round; and when the
old lady looked cross at having to pay, they laughed louder than
ever; on which the old lady's face gradually brightened up, till at
last she laughed louder than any of them, Then, when the spinster
aunt got 'matrimony,' the young ladies laughed afresh, and the
Spinster aunt seemed disposed to be pettish; till, feeling Mr.
Tupman squeezing her hand under the table, she brightened up
too, and looked rather knowing, as if matrimony in reality were
not quite so far off as some people thought for; whereupon
everybody laughed again, and especially old Mr. Wardle, who
enjoyed a joke as much as the youngest. As to Mr. Snodgrass, he
did nothing but whisper poetical sentiments into his partner's
ear, which made one old gentleman facetiously sly, about
partnerships at cards and partnerships for life, and caused the
aforesaid old gentleman to make some remarks thereupon,
accompanied with divers winks and chuckles, which made the
company very merry and the old gentleman's wife especially so.
And Mr. Winkle came out with jokes which are very well known
in town, but are not all known in the country; and as everybody
laughed at them very heartily, and said they were very capital,
Mr. Winkle was in a state of great honour and glory. And the
benevolent clergyman looked pleasantly on; for the happy faces
which surrounded the table made the good old man feel happy
too; and though the merriment was rather boisterous, still it
came from the heart and not from the lips; and this is the right
sort of merriment, after all.
The evening glided swiftly away, in these cheerful recreations;
and when the substantial though homely supper had been
despatched, and the little party formed a social circle round the
fire, Mr. Pickwick thought he had never felt so happy in his life,
and at no time so much disposed to enjoy, and make the most of,
the passing moment.
'Now this,' said the hospitable host, who was sitting in great
state next the old lady's arm-chair, with her hand fast clasped in
his--'this is just what I like--the happiest moments of my life
have been passed at this old fireside; and I am so attached to it,
that I keep up a blazing fire here every evening, until it actually
grows too hot to bear it. Why, my poor old mother, here, used
to sit before this fireplace upon that little stool when she was a
girl; didn't you, mother?'
The tear which starts unbidden to the eye when the recollection
of old times and the happiness of many years ago is suddenly
recalled, stole down the old lady's face as she shook her head with
a melancholy smile.
'You must excuse my talking about this old place, Mr. Pickwick,'
resumed the host, after a short pause, 'for I love it dearly,
and know no other--the old houses and fields seem like living
friends to me; and so does our little church with the ivy, about
which, by the bye, our excellent friend there made a song when
he first came amongst us. Mr. Snodgrass, have you anything in
'Plenty, thank you,' replied that gentleman, whose poetic
curiosity had been greatly excited by the last observation of his
entertainer. 'I beg your pardon, but you were talking about the
song of the Ivy.'
'You must ask our friend opposite about that,' said the host
knowingly, indicating the clergyman by a nod of his head.
'May I say that I should like to hear you repeat it, sir?' said
'Why, really,' replied the clergyman, 'it's a very slight affair;
and the only excuse I have for having ever perpetrated it is, that
I was a young man at the time. Such as it is, however, you shall
hear it, if you wish.'
A murmur of curiosity was of course the reply; and the old
gentleman proceeded to recite, with the aid of sundry promptings
from his wife, the lines in question. 'I call them,' said he,
THE IVY GREEN
Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.
The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim;
And the mouldering dust that years have made,
Is a merry meal for him.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!
And slily he traileth along the ground,
And his leaves he gently waves,
As he joyously hugs and crawleth round
The rich mould of dead men's graves.
Creeping where grim death has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
Whole ages have fled and their works decayed,
And nations have scattered been;
But the stout old Ivy shall never fade,
From its hale and hearty green.
The brave old plant in its lonely days,
Shall fatten upon the past;
For the stateliest building man can raise,
Is the Ivy's food at last.
Creeping on where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
While the old gentleman repeated these lines a second time, to
enable Mr. Snodgrass to note them down, Mr. Pickwick perused
the lineaments of his face with an expression of great interest.
The old gentleman having concluded his dictation, and Mr.
Snodgrass having returned his note-book to his pocket, Mr.
'Excuse me, sir, for making the remark on so short an
acquaintance; but a gentleman like yourself cannot fail, I should
think, to have observed many scenes and incidents worth
recording, in the course of your experience as a minister of the
'I have witnessed some certainly,' replied the old gentleman,
'but the incidents and characters have been of a homely and
ordinary nature, my sphere of action being so very limited.'
'You did make some notes, I think, about John Edmunds, did
you not?' inquired Mr. Wardle, who appeared very desirous to
draw his friend out, for the edification of his new visitors.
The old gentleman slightly nodded his head in token of assent,
and was proceeding to change the subject, when Mr. Pickwick
'I beg your pardon, sir, but pray, if I may venture to inquire,
who was John Edmunds?'
'The very thing I was about to ask,' said Mr. Snodgrass eagerly.
'You are fairly in for it,' said the jolly host. 'You must satisfy
the curiosity of these gentlemen, sooner or later; so you had
better take advantage of this favourable opportunity, and do so
The old gentleman smiled good-humouredly as he drew his
chair forward--the remainder of the party drew their chairs
closer together, especially Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt,
who were possibly rather hard of hearing; and the old lady's
ear-trumpet having been duly adjusted, and Mr. Miller (who had
fallen asleep during the recital of the verses) roused from his
slumbers by an admonitory pinch, administered beneath the
table by his ex-partner the solemn fat man, the old gentleman,
without further preface, commenced the following tale, to which
we have taken the liberty of prefixing the title of
THE CONVICT'S RETURN
'When I first settled in this village,' said the old gentleman,
'which is now just five-and-twenty years ago, the most notorious
person among my parishioners was a man of the name of
Edmunds, who leased a small farm near this spot. He was a
morose, savage-hearted, bad man; idle and dissolute in his
habits; cruel and ferocious in his disposition. Beyond the few
lazy and reckless vagabonds with whom he sauntered away his
time in the fields, or sotted in the ale-house, he had not a single
friend or acquaintance; no one cared to speak to the man whom
many feared, and every one detested--and Edmunds was
shunned by all.
'This man had a wife and one son, who, when I first came here,
was about twelve years old. Of the acuteness of that woman's
sufferings, of the gentle and enduring manner in which she bore
them, of the agony of solicitude with which she reared that boy,
no one can form an adequate conception. Heaven forgive me the
supposition, if it be an uncharitable one, but I do firmly and in
my soul believe, that the man systematically tried for many years
to break her heart; but she bore it all for her child's sake, and,
however strange it may seem to many, for his father's too; for
brute as he was, and cruelly as he had treated her, she had loved
him once; and the recollection of what he had been to her,
awakened feelings of forbearance and meekness under suffering
in her bosom, to which all God's creatures, but women, are strangers.
'They were poor--they could not be otherwise when the man
pursued such courses; but the woman's unceasing and
unwearied exertions, early and late, morning, noon, and night, kept
them above actual want. These exertions were but ill repaid.
People who passed the spot in the evening--sometimes at a late
hour of the night--reported that they had heard the moans and
sobs of a woman in distress, and the sound of blows; and more
than once, when it was past midnight, the boy knocked softly at
the door of a neighbour's house, whither he had been sent, to
escape the drunken fury of his unnatural father.
'During the whole of this time, and when the poor creature
often bore about her marks of ill-usage and violence which she
could not wholly conceal, she was a constant attendant at our
little church. Regularly every Sunday, morning and afternoon, she
occupied the same seat with the boy at her side; and though they
were both poorly dressed--much more so than many of their
neighbours who were in a lower station--they were always neat
and clean. Every one had a friendly nod and a kind word for
"poor Mrs. Edmunds"; and sometimes, when she stopped to
exchange a few words with a neighbour at the conclusion of the
service in the little row of elm-trees which leads to the church
porch, or lingered behind to gaze with a mother's pride and
fondness upon her healthy boy, as he sported before her with
some little companions, her careworn face would lighten up with
an expression of heartfelt gratitude; and she would look, if not
cheerful and happy, at least tranquil and contented.
'Five or six years passed away; the boy had become a robust
and well-grown youth. The time that had strengthened the child's
slight frame and knit his weak limbs into the strength of manhood
had bowed his mother's form, and enfeebled her steps;
but the arm that should have supported her was no longer locked
in hers; the face that should have cheered her, no more looked
upon her own. She occupied her old seat, but there was a vacant
one beside her. The Bible was kept as carefully as ever, the places
were found and folded down as they used to be: but there was no
one to read it with her; and the tears fell thick and fast upon the
book, and blotted the words from her eyes. Neighbours were as
kind as they were wont to be of old, but she shunned their
greetings with averted head. There was no lingering among the
old elm-trees now-no cheering anticipations of happiness yet in
store. The desolate woman drew her bonnet closer over her face,
and walked hurriedly away.
'Shall I tell you that the young man, who, looking back to the
earliest of his childhood's days to which memory and consciousness
extended, and carrying his recollection down to that moment,
could remember nothing which was not in some way connected
with a long series of voluntary privations suffered by his mother
for his sake, with ill-usage, and insult, and violence, and all
endured for him--shall I tell you, that he, with a reckless
disregard for her breaking heart, and a sullen, wilful forgetfulness of
all she had done and borne for him, had linked himself with
depraved and abandoned men, and was madly pursuing a
headlong career, which must bring death to him, and shame to
her? Alas for human nature! You have anticipated it long since.
'The measure of the unhappy woman's misery and misfortune
was about to be completed. Numerous offences had been
committed in the neighbourhood; the perpetrators remained
undiscovered, and their boldness increased. A robbery of a daring
and aggravated nature occasioned a vigilance of pursuit, and a
strictness of search, they had not calculated on. Young Edmunds
was suspected, with three companions. He was apprehended--
'The wild and piercing shriek from a woman's voice, which
resounded through the court when the solemn sentence was
pronounced, rings in my ears at this moment. That cry struck a
terror to the culprit's heart, which trial, condemnation--the
approach of death itself, had failed to awaken. The lips which
had been compressed in dogged sullenness throughout, quivered
and parted involuntarily; the face turned ashy pale as the cold
perspiration broke forth from every pore; the sturdy limbs of the
felon trembled, and he staggered in the dock.
'In the first transports of her mental anguish, the suffering
mother threw herself on her knees at my feet, and fervently
sought the Almighty Being who had hitherto supported her in
all her troubles to release her from a world of woe and misery,
and to spare the life of her only child. A burst of grief, and a
violent struggle, such as I hope I may never have to witness
again, succeeded. I knew that her heart was breaking from
that hour; but I never once heard complaint or murmur escape
'It was a piteous spectacle to see that woman in the prison-yard
from day to day, eagerly and fervently attempting, by affection
and entreaty, to soften the hard heart of her obdurate son. It was
in vain. He remained moody, obstinate, and unmoved. Not even
the unlooked-for commutation of his sentence to transportation
for fourteen years, softened for an instant the sullen hardihood
of his demeanour.
'But the spirit of resignation and endurance that had so long
upheld her, was unable to contend against bodily weakness and
infirmity. She fell sick. She dragged her tottering limbs from the
bed to visit her son once more, but her strength failed her, and
she sank powerless on the ground.
'And now the boasted coldness and indifference of the young
man were tested indeed; and the retribution that fell heavily upon
him nearly drove him mad. A day passed away and his mother
was not there; another flew by, and she came not near him; a
third evening arrived, and yet he had not seen her--, and in four-
and-twenty hours he was to be separated from her, perhaps for
ever. Oh! how the long-forgotten thoughts of former days rushed
upon his mind, as he almost ran up and down the narrow yard--
as if intelligence would arrive the sooner for his hurrying--and
how bitterly a sense of his helplessness and desolation rushed
upon him, when he heard the truth! His mother, the only parent
he had ever known, lay ill--it might be, dying--within one mile
of the ground he stood on; were he free and unfettered, a few
minutes would place him by her side. He rushed to the gate, and
grasping the iron rails with the energy of desperation, shook it
till it rang again, and threw himself against the thick wall as if to
force a passage through the stone; but the strong building
mocked his feeble efforts, and he beat his hands together and
wept like a child.
'I bore the mother's forgiveness and blessing to her son in
prison; and I carried the solemn assurance of repentance, and his
fervent supplication for pardon, to her sick-bed. I heard, with
pity and compassion, the repentant man devise a thousand little
plans for her comfort and support when he returned; but I knew
that many months before he could reach his place of destination,
his mother would be no longer of this world.
'He was removed by night. A few weeks afterwards the poor
woman's soul took its flight, I confidently hope, and solemnly
believe, to a place of eternal happiness and rest. I performed the
burial service over her remains. She lies in our little churchyard.
There is no stone at her grave's head. Her sorrows were known to
man; her virtues to God.
'it had been arranged previously to the convict's departure,
that he should write to his mother as soon as he could obtain
permission, and that the letter should be addressed to me. The
father had positively refused to see his son from the moment of
his apprehension; and it was a matter of indifference to him
whether he lived or died. Many years passed over without any
intelligence of him; and when more than half his term of
transportation had expired, and I had received no letter, I concluded
him to be dead, as, indeed, I almost hoped he might be.
'Edmunds, however, had been sent a considerable distance up
the country on his arrival at the settlement; and to this circumstance,
perhaps, may be attributed the fact, that though several
letters were despatched, none of them ever reached my hands.
He remained in the same place during the whole fourteen years.
At the expiration of the term, steadily adhering to his old
resolution and the pledge he gave his mother, he made his way
back to England amidst innumerable difficulties, and returned,
on foot, to his native place.
'On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John
Edmunds set foot in the village he had left with shame and
disgrace seventeen years before. His nearest way lay through the
churchyard. The man's heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The
tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast here
and there a rich ray of light upon the shady part, awakened the
associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was
then, clinging to his mother's hand, and walking peacefully to
church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale
face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she
gazed upon his features--tears which fell hot upon his forehead
as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too, although he
little knew then what bitter tears hers were. He thought how
often he had run merrily down that path with some childish
playfellow, looking back, ever and again, to catch his mother's
smile, or hear her gentle voice; and then a veil seemed lifted from
his memory, and words of kindness unrequited, and warnings
despised, and promises broken, thronged upon his recollection
till his heart failed him, and he could bear it no longer.
'He entered the church. The evening service was concluded and
the congregation had dispersed, but it was not yet closed. His
steps echoed through the low building with a hollow sound, and
he almost feared to be alone, it was so still and quiet. He looked
round him. Nothing was changed. The place seemed smaller than
it used to be; but there were the old monuments on which he had
gazed with childish awe a thousand times; the little pulpit with
its faded cushion; the Communion table before which he had so
often repeated the Commandments he had reverenced as a child,
and forgotten as a man. He approached the old seat; it looked
cold and desolate. The cushion had been removed, and the Bible
was not there. Perhaps his mother now occupied a poorer seat, or
possibly she had grown infirm and could not reach the church
alone. He dared not think of what he feared. A cold feeling crept
over him, and he trembled violently as he turned away.
'An old man entered the porch just as he reached it. Edmunds
started back, for he knew him well; many a time he had watched
him digging graves in the churchyard. What would he say to the
'The old man raised his eyes to the stranger's face, bade him
"good-evening," and walked slowly on. He had forgotten him.
'He walked down the hill, and through the village. The weather
was warm, and the people were sitting at their doors, or strolling
in their little gardens as he passed, enjoying the serenity of the
evening, and their rest from labour. Many a look was turned
towards him, and many a doubtful glance he cast on either side
to see whether any knew and shunned him. There were strange
faces in almost every house; in some he recognised the burly form
of some old schoolfellow--a boy when he last saw him--surrounded
by a troop of merry children; in others he saw, seated in
an easy-chair at a cottage door, a feeble and infirm old man,
whom he only remembered as a hale and hearty labourer; but
they had all forgotten him, and he passed on unknown.
'The last soft light of the setting sun had fallen on the earth,
casting a rich glow on the yellow corn sheaves, and lengthening
the shadows of the orchard trees, as he stood before the old house
--the home of his infancy--to which his heart had yearned with
an intensity of affection not to be described, through long and
weary years of captivity and sorrow. The paling was low, though
he well remembered the time that it had seemed a high wall to
him; and he looked over into the old garden. There were more
seeds and gayer flowers than there used to be, but there were the
old trees still--the very tree under which he had lain a thousand
times when tired of playing in the sun, and felt the soft, mild sleep
of happy boyhood steal gently upon him. There were voices
within the house. He listened, but they fell strangely upon his ear;
he knew them not. They were merry too; and he well knew that
his poor old mother could not be cheerful, and he away. The door
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